I initially wrote a one-shot and planned to use a stripped-down version of the HERO System for a Texas RPGnet gathering. Unfortunately, we didn't have as much of a turnout (or space) as we'd hoped, so the game got shelved. Nonetheless, I'd done a fair bit of work on it, so when I decided to GM something at Owlcon a couple of years later, it was a natural.
But the system had to go. The previous year, I'd played a bunch of HERO sessions at the con and saw that it could get kind of bogged down, especially with players who were new to the system. I needed something rules-light, fast, and cinematic. Something like Feng Shui. I spent a few numbers playing around with character archetypes, toned down the kung fu in favor of fisticuffs and gunplay, and turned it loose on the 80s.
This was the result:
The premise is fairly simple. The game takes place in that long-ago time called "The Eighties," when rock star scientists in skinny ties fought the forces of Evil and the music video was mankind's highest artistic achievement. Basically, "Buckaroo Banzai" meets every Duran Duran video ever made.
Most of the PCs are members of the up and coming New Wave Band, Arms Akimbo. Of course, there's more to them than just being members of a band. They're also secret agents in the Hidden Agenda, a shadow war fought beneath the headlines and behind the music. Working for CURE, an organization headed by the mysterious Mr. Smith, they stand on the front lines between good and evil.
Arms Akimbo are:
Billy: A wise man once said, “Violence is the first recourse of the violent.” That largely sums up Billy. He stumbled quite accidentally upon the Hidden Agenda when his first band, Sod-Off Baldrick, ran afoul of the Violence Gang, a crew of English football hooligans who’d been mutated into hideous creatures. Proving himself useful in that fight, Billy has seen a lot of odd things in this crazy old world, but nothing he hasn’t been able to put an end to with a cricket bat or a shotgun.
Smith recruited him on the spot.
Following them on tour is:
So that's the PCs. Here's the story:
Arms Akimbo are playing Heebie Jeebies and the place is rockin'. Or it was, anyway, until the Wild Boys crashed the party. New Wave-hating punks, they're terrorizing the crowd and trying to rush the stage. Needless to say, our heroes don't appreciate the interruption and make it clear with fists, boots, guitars, and drumsticks.
During the fracas, Professor D. receives a transmission on his pager (a rather clunky box, but a pager nonetheless). The camera lingers on the red LED display that reads, "BREAK-IN." The transmission can only come from the Professor's experimental AI, Miss Sakamoto. Clearly, his lab is in danger!
Making short work of the remaining Wild Boys, the band (and the ever-present Melody) take to the Tour Bus, Whirly-Girl's signature vehicle, an odd hybrid between a Winnebago and a VTOL aircraft and fly to the scene of the break-in.
While in transit, they receive a transmission from Smith: Tolhurst has escaped custody and is doubtlessly going to make a try for the Anything Box. They must stop him from putting it to use, or all mankind will be living in oblivion.
|In the Neo-Pulp 80s, scientists dated supermodels.|
The ensuing investigation reveals a couple of items. First, Miss Sakamoto was taken off-line by some sort of EMP device. After a short period, she comes back up and can play back partial security footage. Clearly the assailants were Skyrates (rhymes with Pirates), a scurrilous crew of airborne mercenaries who strike from their hidden base. Locating them is problematic. They seem to use some form of stealth technology and no one really knows where to look for them. However, some spent shell casings reveal another clue. They're unique to the very unusual Sigue Sigue Sputnik LMF111 automatic rifle. There's only one arms merchant that deals in such weapons, the enigmatic J. Division, an emigre from Warsaw. She's known to hang out at Sprockets, a music venue about two hours away. To the Tour Bus!
|J Division. Arms Merchant|
At that moment, all hell breaks loose. A flash-bang grenade goes off on the sway floor below, stunning the crowd and even affecting the band. The sound of breaking glass signals the arrival of a strange figure on a zipline, a man in an oversized white suit wielding two machine pistols. It's the Psycho-Killer, one of the world's most notorious assassins. Before our heroes can react, he sprays J. Division's balcony, severely wounding her. The band manages to put up enough unexpected resistance to drive him off, but not before he's ruined everybody's time. Ms Division will pull through, though she's barely conscious. With her last bit of strength, she whispers to the Professor, "Look in the Wastes. The Skyrates deal with the Renegades. They're out there...somewhere..."
Once again, air travel is called for. This time, it's a much more eventful trip. A transmission breaks into their supposedly secure frequency, "Whirly-Girl, Whirly-Girl, come out and play!" as tracer fire fills the night sky. It's the Skyrates! A squadron of Stingers, their ultra-fast ultralights is swarming around the Tour Bus. The heroes take to the gun turrets (of course the bus is armed). Several Stingers are shot down, but not before one can hit the bus with an EMP missile that shuts down all electronics. With the help of Billy's muscle, Whirly-Girl manages to bring it in for a dead stick landing without serious harm.
On the plus side, it looks like the same sort of EMP that shut down Miss Sakamoto, so it should wear off. On the minus side, there are several bullet holes in the fuel tank. They're easy to patch, but our heroes are going to need fuel, and a lot of it, to get airborne. If the Renegades were handy, maybe they could barter for gas and information.
|Queen Cyn (Like it would be anyone else)|
Once again, Melody Maker is spot on the scene, reminding Queen Cyn of that time she interviewed her for Video Limelight News. After a bit of hemming and hawing, Queen Cyn agrees to provide gas and information if Arms Akimbo will take part in a battle of the bands!
The heroes are carted down to The Turbo-Cage, a massive structure of scrap metal and flames, where they face off against the Waste Warriors. Professor D manages to rig the perimeter to shock anyone who touches it, and his bandmates maneuver them into it. (Rules-wise, I largely winged this, letting the players describe over-the-top stunts, until it seemed an appropriate time to declare them the victors.)
True to her word, Queen Cyn gives a general location of the Skyrate base. It's a flying carrier, but it's stealthed. Fortunately, there are several crashed Stingers near the Bus, and the Professor is able to figure out their stealth technology, adapting it to cover their approach and reveal the Sky-Carrier's location.
En route, they receive another message from Smith. Strange things are happening throughout the Earth. It's still on a small scale, but Tolhurst is clearly experimenting with the Anything Box. Time is of the essence.
|The Pirate Twins!|
All hell breaks loose. Simon attempts to use his command of strange rituals to counter the Anything Box (he believes it to be a mystic artifact). Meanwhile, Professor D manages a one in a million leap to clear the Skyrate rabble and run to the dais. The Pirate Twins unsheathe their cutlasses and lead an attack, in order to give Tolhurst time. Europa merely sneers at the Professor. He's spent too much time failing to unlock the Anything Box when Tolhurst knew its secrets all along. Clearly, his mind is vastly superior to the Professor's.
|The Terrible Mr. Tolhurst|
The Professor uses his SCIENCE! schtick to pull out the device he's been working on for the past two years -- an anti-Anything Box device. (Yes, it was a cheap gimmick and it was a clear case of the player trying to short-circuit the plot with a rules loophole, but I rolled with it, and described the device as combining forces with Simon's counter-rituals in a heretofore unseen manner.)
Despite their efforts, something untoward occurs. A rift of some sort opens over the dais. Awestruck, Tolhurst has the classic "It's beautiful!" moment, only to shriek horribly as an enormous creature, a spider with a human head emerges from the rift and immediately devours him. The Pirate Twins immediately call off their assault on our heroes and turn their attentions to fighting off this enormous Spider Man. Bullets prove only marginally effective and it coats a shrieking Europa in vile webbing. Suddenly struck with whatever passes for inspiration in his addled mind, Johnny Slash picks up a piece of shattered window and flings it across the room at the Spider Man, resulting in a truly magnificent shot (the player put a Fortune Point into the attack, which then managed to generate a freakin' +37 bonus to his attack roll) which miraculously sails across the length of the bridge, embedding itself in the Spider Man's head (which now eerily resembles Tolhurst). The monster falls back through the rift and fades from this reality as the hole in space/time collapses on itself.
A brief exchange with the Pirate Twins tells Whirly-Girl it's time to back the bus up and get the hell out of Dodge. They'll let her go this time, but they still want her: dead or alive.
Cut to the inevitable final shot of our heroes looking heroic with a caption reading, "The Heroes of the New Wave Will Return, in 'Nobody Walks In LA'."